Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier
Good afternoon everybody. Injury-wise, Jared [Allen] has lower back spasms so we’ll have to do a MRI just to make sure that nothing else is going on there. We should have him for the ball game, shouldn’t be a problem with that. John Sullivan has a rib contusion, should be fine as we prepare for the ball game. Other than that, we should be pretty good. Really don’t have much new news regarding Percy [Harvin]. He did a little bit with our trainer today. We’ll learn a little bit more as the week goes on. Hopefully we can get him back but there is no certainty there obviously. The good news is, we’re relatively healthy for the most part. Looked at the tape with our staff, went through it. Very, very difficult loss for our football team. Had some golden opportunities to do better and find a way to get a ‘W’ but we didn’t. It’s hard to win when you finish minus in the turnover battle, again, like we did on the road. It continues to show up. We’re just not at a point where we can overcome some of those turnovers, especially in the scoring zone. There were some other things we could have done better, but at the end of the day, turnovers are a big deal. Being efficient on third down, doing well in two-minute, red zone; all those things are important. In our business, overcoming turnovers can be tough based on who your team is. So many great things happened with Adrian [Peterson] and our offensive line, the way they performed. Just an incredible effort by Adrian, but for our team not to win, Adrian will be the first to tell you, that’s something that we went into that game hoping we would do be able to do was come away with a win and at the same time, be able to see him have a great day. We didn’t get that done.
Q: A lot of people have lost patience with Christian Ponder, what can you say to fans to ease their stress about him?
A: You are in a business where you’re judged by results, and results for us are based on wins and losses. When you come up short, that does create some frustration but we do have confidence that Christian will continue to get better. That was a tough day at times for him yesterday. We’ve got to keep doing the things that are necessary to help him to improve as a quarterback, surrounding him with the right people, putting him in situations to be successful. We think he’s more than capable of being successful, he showed it early in the season. He’s played some consistent football for us and we have to get him back to playing that way, playing winning football. We think he’s capable of getting that done and we’re going to need it for sure this coming weekend.
Q: What are you seeing in the passing department?
A: There was a little hesitation at times. Sometimes you have to throw the ball when guys come out of their breaks. In our League, it’s not very often guys are going to be wide open, so when we say throw it on time, on time means when the guy comes out of his break, deliver the football. You’ve got to be able to make that decision whether or not you can get it in there or not. If you end up holding it a little bit longer, in our League, guys are good enough to close, if you do that. When I say throw the ball on time, that’s part of it. When my back foot hits, my drop point, get the football out. Go through your progressions, do the things that are necessary to be a real good NFL quarterback.
Q: What do you think is causing that hesitation?
A: A number of things, sometimes tight coverage. You just have to continue to play with great confidence, believing in what you’re doing, the techniques you’ve worked on in practice and have confidence that you can go through your progressions and you can make the plays. Whether it be your receivers or your offensive line, just believing they’re going to do their jobs, and ‘I just have to do my job’.
Q: Do you sense a lack of confidence in Christian Ponder?
A: I think he’s still a very confident quarterback, I really do. We just have to get him to the point where we’re making some of those plays that we know he’s capable of making. But he’s not the only one. There were a few other opportunities we had that we didn’t take advantage of. In our business, so much falls on the quarterback’s shoulder. He’s the guy who gets a lot of the accolades when your team wins and he gets a lot of the blame when your team loses. There are some things he can do better and he knows that.
Q: Is there a way to measure how much Percy Harvin’s absence has meant to you in these last two losses?
A: It’s hard to say. I think we’re a better team when he’s on the football field for obvious reasons. What he gives us as a kickoff returner, it’s hard to replace that and what he does for us as a slot receiver. Hopefully at some point we’ll get him back, but I can’t say we would have won or lost based on him being there or not being there. I just know we’re a better team when he’s on the field for us.
Q: Have you considered replacing your quarterback?
A: I haven’t really considered it. It hasn’t come up at any point this season where I thought we needed to pull him out of a game, that hasn’t occurred. We’re always trying to get the best out of all of our players and you need the quarterback position to play well in order to win in our League. It’s rare that you can win in our League when you don’t get good production out of that position. There are times you can overcome it, but in general that’s not the case. At this point, Christian [Ponder] has done a good job on occasion. We have to get him to consistently do well and, as I mentioned before, no time bigger than now.
Q: We’ve seen you make changes at other positions in the middle of games. Is there something philosophically with the quarterback position that you just want continuity there?
A: I think there is something there where, in my mind, you don’t want to get into a situation where you’re not sure who you’re number one is. We believe that Christian is our number one and we’ve gone through off-season, training camp, during the season, now. That being said, if things get to a point where your number one is really costing you some situations that could preclude winning, you do have to do what’s best for the football team. That’s always the case, it’s always about what’s best for the team and up to this point, I’ve felt it’s been best for our team that Christian remain our number one quarterback, and I still feel that way, but every position, you need those guys to continue to progress and continue to improve. He knows that as well as every position on our team.
Q: How much does Joe Webb’s development factor into that? Is there a lack of confidence in him to come in and get the job done?
A: We think Joe can do it. We think he’s a quality quarterback. He’s our backup now but if he had to step in and play, we have confidence he’d do a good job, but we do have confidence that Christian is going to play better. He knows he has to in order for us to win, but Joe, we think he’s very capable. That’s why we kept him on the roster and kept him in the spot that he’s in and we know, if necessary, he’d be able to help us.
Q: With so much production other than in the passing game, do you feel you’ve wasted some opportunities?
A: In our League, you need to be able to throw the football and take advantage of these rule changes. That’s a big deal and as well as we’re running the football, you’d think we’d be a little bit more productive throwing the ball. We’ll keep working on it and we’ve got to find a way to create some balance. It’s hard to get done what you want to get done if you’re very one-dimensional. It just makes it a little bit easier for opposing defenses.
Q: Is there anything besides injury that would get to you make a switch at quarterback?
A: This is a performance-based business so performance matters. It’s a process though. From my vantage point, I always have to consider where Christian is in his development and what the expectations are for him and he knows what those expectations are. We’ll continue to monitor his development and how he’s progressing, but it’s an ongoing process. He’s in his second season. He’s made some progress along the way. He’s had some moments where I think we all would agree, he has to play better and we’re looking for that to happen over the course of this week leading up to this next ball game.
Q: Could there be any benefit for a guy like Christian taking a step back and clearing his head and then going back to him?
A: I don’t know at this stage if that would be the best thing. He needs to play and not only for experience, but for our continuance to evaluate where he is as a quarterback in his second season. I don’t know if it’s the wise thing to do to have him to sit and watch, say, Joe. That’s our backup quarterback. What he would learn from Joe? I don’t know what that would be right now. He needs to be out there playing and playing well for our football team and he will. I have complete confidence that he’ll have a good week of practice, he’ll go out there and he’ll do a good job on Sunday. He has to in order for us to have success.
Q: Do you have any concerns that you might send a mixed message to guys in the locker room if you stick with Christian after a game when he’s really struggling?
A: That’s a good question, it’s a good one, and I’ve thought about that a lot because when you’re struggling at a position, the guys know how we’ve talked about everyone doing their job and why it’s important for us to have success. You don’t want to send mixed messages at any position and it’s important that all of the positions do their jobs and function well. The quarterback position is always under that bright light. We believe Christian is going to continue to develop and grow and be the quarterback we all expect him to be. That being said, there’s a lot riding on this next ball game for our football team and I’m sure there are a lot of guys looking and wondering if we can get it done under the current situation. I believe we can. I believe we’ll play better, not only at the quarterback position but at other positions as well. We’ll need to as a team, but your question is a good one.
Q: How much of the struggle should be put on the receivers?
A: They have an important role. They have to get open. They’ve got to make the catch when the opportunity comes and the example you gave, we had a number of dropped balls in that Chicago ball game and it wasn’t all just on Christian to get some completions. It’s a combination of protection along with guys getting open and making catches when they have an opportunity and the quarterback being able to deliver the football. That’s part of having a good passing game. Our receivers know that, our quarterback knows it, our offensive line knows it, now we’ve got to find a way to be more productive in the passing game.
Q: Is it next impossible to win an NFL game having the ball near 20 minutes?
A: I don’t know if it’s next to impossible. It’s all about being efficient with your possessions. I had a coach remind me of this a number of years ago. It’s so important that you understand what it means to be efficient with your possessions. You may get seven possessions in a game, and in general, most teams are going to get the same number of possessions, but it’s what are you doing with your possessions? Are you kicking field goals, punting, or scoring touchdowns with you possessions? The most important thing is how well are we functioning with the possessions that we get and that’s what we have to do a better job of. And vice versa on defense, you have to figure out a way on third down to get off the field but to stay on the field, you have to convert third downs. Even if you are having success on first and second down, let’s get touchdowns, because if they’re able to hold us to field goals and they’re scoring touchdowns, that’s a problem because the possessions usually balance themselves out, it’s how efficient you are with the football.
Q: Do you talk with Christian about body language and things like that?
A: Oh yeah, we do. We talk with him about it from the day we drafted him, about how other guys feed off of that body language and the energy he brings to the huddle, as well as what happens after adversity when he comes to the sideline. We talk to him about it all the time. Our coaches are reminding him of it. It’s important. Our players really feed off that position for obvious reasons, so it’s a big deal.
Q: What do the receivers need to be doing better?
A: They played a lot of man coverage, some three deep. It wasn’t complicated, what they were doing. We just have to do a better job at times of finding ways to win in one-on-one situations but also, when a guy has created separation, get the football to him on time. We had some occasions where we didn’t create separation like we needed to, like we thought we would, going into the game and there were other times when we had that separation and we didn’t get the ball there in a timely fashion and it cost us. I think we just have to keep working at it. I don’t think the coverages are going to change a whole lot going forward with the way we’re running the ball. There’s going to be a lot of single-high coverage and we have to find a way to win against that between the quarterback, receivers and protection.
Q: At this point in the season, is there much you can do to get more production from the receiving corps?
A: We think we have some guys who are capable of creating some separation and we’ll continue schematically as coaches try to find ways to scheme coverages if we can and get some guys some open looks. We have to get it done. There’s so much at stake, we have to find a way to get it done. We have to work at it as coaches and as players and find a way to get it done. It’s not like at this time of the year someone’s going to drop a special guy in your lap. That’s just not the case.
Q: How do you think the Metrodome stacks up for home field advantage?
A: I think we have the best. That’s one of the reasons I’m excited about this game at Mall of America Field on Sunday, I really do. I think the fact that we’re going to be playing in front of our fans, it gives me energy just thinking about what that noise factor will mean for our football team on Sunday. We’ve done pretty good at home this season and to play in front of our fans, deriving energy from our fans on Sunday, will be a big deal towards our success, as well. To answer your question, I think we have the best home-field advantage in the NFL and we have to prove that on Sunday.
Q: Your record is completely opposite on the road than at home. Why doesn’t that carry over on the road?
A: There are some things that happen at home that really help you, as I mentioned, being able to feed off the energy of the fans. In our case, if you look at the numbers, you can point back to this, look at our turnover differential on the road. We’re not a good enough team to win in minus situations, we’re not.
Q: Why is that? Why do you think there are more turnovers on the road?
A: I think it’s a little bit of our not executing as well on the road as well as we have at home and some of that is the advantage of playing at home. We have to find a way to be able to execute on the road as well as we have at home, and that will come as we mature as a team and get better, as a team. We haven’t gotten there yet and that’s obvious with our record on the road. We’re not executing as well on the road as we have at home this season.
Q: Is some of that being a young team and trying to learn how to win on the road?
A: Some of it is. The mistakes we made yesterday, I don’t know if it’s just necessarily the fact that we’re a young team. We’ve got to do better. If we could play as hard as we’re playing and we can play a clean game on the road, I’d like to see how we finish, if that’s the case. We haven’t done that yet. I think the Detroit game was the closest to that, but yet, we won with special teams as much as anything on that day. I’d like to see us play a clean game on the road and see how we stack up once that’s done.